Non-profit work not a last resort

Goldman Sachs, Google, Apple and Walt Disney.

These are just a handful of potential employers that many USC students clamor to work for after graduation. But job competition at these companies is incredibly fierce, with hundreds of résumés flooding in for a single opening.

What do they all have in common? They’re all for-profit companies.

As for-profit organizations steal the limelight, the non-profit sector is often left in the shadows.

Students might not realize that the non-profit sector isn’t just for do-gooders: It offers better prospects.

The non-profit sector has consistently added jobs in the past decade. According to a recent study from Johns Hopkins University, nonprofits have added jobs at an annual average rate of more than 2 percent from 2000 to 2010. And for-profit jobs were cut by an average of 0.6 percent each year.

Students who are struggling to find jobs in a competitive and narrow job market should expand their job searches to the non-profit sector.

After retail and manufacturing, nonprofits comprise the third largest private employers in the United States.

The breadth of non-profit organizations available is also impressive, spanning areas such as education, the arts, health and microfinance.

Besides the fact the non-profit sector is adding jobs, non-profit jobs provide new graduates with great opportunities for growth. In comparison with for-profit sector jobs that often have strictly defined roles, a typical job position at a nonprofit involves a variety of responsibilities.

To keep running, nonprofits require various activities, such as fundraising, donor management, program development and budgeting. They also hire fewer people to carry out those activities. Therefore, new graduates thrust into a non-profit job can develop diverse skills sets.

Another attractive characteristic of the non-profit sector is employers’ tendencies to value all majors. Though many for-profit companies recruit students from specific majors, such as finance or computer engineering, nonprofits look for broad skill sets, such as the ability to multi task and manage concurrent projects.

Students who finish non-profit programs are highly sought after by graduate programs and employers because of the leadership and management skills they cultivate. For example, Teach for America partners with prestigious companies like Bain & Company and J.P. Morgan, as well as graduate programs like Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

The non-profit sector is not for everyone, and it has its flaws. Lower salaries often deter graduates. After taking a position at a nonprofit, it can be difficult for graduates to chart out where their careers are heading. Finally, because nonprofits often fall victim to inefficiencies, changes can take longer to implement, and it can be harder to benchmark success.

Nevertheless, the non-profit sector offers students a multitude of employment opportunities that they might not have initially considered or explored. And, perhaps most importantly, employees can make a direct and positive impact on their communities — something that can be a lot harder to trace when working for a bigger corporation.

Though the economy is slowly improving, students have to be creative, proactive and open-minded in their job search. Along with expanding their range of opportunities, students can find jobs that suit them and that allow them to give back.


Jasmine Ako is a freshman majoring in business administration.

2 replies
  1. Trojan
    Trojan says:

    That’s awesome – but students aren’t paying 200k for a degree to work at a place that pays 40k per year.

    • Chris
      Chris says:

      I know right? As a business owner that makes 1.5 million a year, it isn’t my job to donate and help a disenfranchised population that would take millions & millions to improve its circumstances.

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